Old School Style
By Dustin Krugel, Suns.com
Posted: March 17, 2003
The Phoenix Suns’ retro jerseys are sizzling these days. Just ask Stephon Marbury. “Yeah, yeah. It’s hot, really hot,” said the Suns’ point guard last month only moments after trying on a No. 7 Kevin Johnson throwback jersey during a video shoot for Suns’ Gametime on UPN 45.
In fact, when it was all said and done, it took some convincing from the Gametime staff for Marbury to return the shirt off his back.
While the NBA is now starting to capitalize on the throwback phenomenon, anything retro has been hip for quite a while.
“Everything that is old is new right now,” noted Suns President Rick Welts.
NBA commercials featuring the likenesses of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones debuted earlier this season and now the league is showcasing several NBA Hardwood Classics across the country, including one at America West Arena on March 24 against the Sonics. As part of the Suns 35th anniversary celebration, the Suns will turn back their roots and wear their original home uniforms with the design worn by Suns players during the club’s inaugural campaign of 1968-69.
The original design featured a sunburst on the side of the shorts, with PHOENIX in block letters and the uniform number on the front, and the player’s last name on the back of the white jersey with orange trim.
“There’s something about the jerseys that has really captured people’s attention,” Welts said of the throwbacks, which are available to purchase in the Suns Team Shop, including the jerseys of Suns Ring of Honor members KJ, Connie Hawkins, Tom Chambers, Alvan Adams, Paul Westphal, Walter Davis, Dick Van Arsdale and Dan Majerle. “It’s just such a symbol of our teams and our heritage that as people got more interested in things like that the jerseys became a real lightning rod.”
The Suns already tested out their “new” look in their first Hardwood Classic in Milwaukee on Feb. 26 and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
“Actually, I think that before the game when we saw them, with the high socks, it created an energy in our locker room that I think spilled out onto the court,” said rookie guard Casey Jacobsen of the Suns’ 118-112 victory over the Bucks. “We got kind of giddy. We were like little kids when we got the new uniforms.”
While many players were trying on their first vintage uniforms, several players have already stockpiled their own collections.
“They are calling it the year of the throwbacks,” said guard Penny Hardaway, whose retro collection includes jerseys of basketball legends such as Larry Bird, Walt Frazier, Jerry West, George Mikan, Bernard King and Lenny Wilkens, as well as football greats Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Jack Tatum and Dan Fouts.
“I think it’s great, because I see Amare Stoudemire coming in with a Wes Unseld jersey on,” added Scott Williams, who is a proud owner of several old Negro League baseball jerseys. “He’s a great player and then you start to think about their careers, and what they meant for basketball, it brings back the memories for me. It’s kind of special.”
Most players agree wearing the old uniforms is their way of paying respect to a previous generation, which helped make basketball the popular and global game it is today.
“We are representing all the players from back in the day,” said Suns All-Star Shawn Marion. “They paved the way for us. It’s cool, man.”
One thing the current players won’t do, however, is suit up in the skimpy shorts, a la John Stockton, which are more reminiscent of the old school generations.
“I assume some of the guys said, ‘If our shorts aren’t longer than five inches we are going to strike and picket outside for longer shorts,’” Jacobsen joked. “They didn’t want to bother with the hassle so they made them long like we like them.”
Fans attending the Hardwood Classic game on March 24 are encouraged to dress the part and wear clothes reminiscent of their favorite decade of Suns basketball – ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and even ‘90s.
“We hope to see everything from ‘60s flower children to ‘70s disco to ‘80s skinny ties to ‘90s grunge in the arena that night,” said Suns Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications Ray Artigue. “We want fans in the stands to have as much fun with this night as we are going to have on the court.”
While the Suns haven’t made a decision to extend the retro theme to future seasons, Welts said he’s open to the idea.
“We haven’t thought past this season. We want to see what the reaction is,” he said. “If (the fans) like it and it’s something they think we should keep on doing, there’s certainly no reason why we couldn’t continue it in the future.”